Pitacodogringo’s guide to the Campeonato Brasileiro, 2008

May 6, 2008 at 20:52 14 comments

(also: Campeonto Brasileiro 2008 end of season round up)

Brazil’s national football championship is almost upon us and this year promises to be one of the best ever.

While many other leagues around the world have become stale and predictable, the same cannot be said of the Campeonato Brasileiro. The Brazilian national league has its faults; but boring it is not.

The new campaign will have 38 rounds and stretch from 10th May to 7th December.

Once again it’s twenty teams. The top four go into the Copa Libertadores, the next eight sides will play in the Copa Sul Americana, four will go down, and four will come up from Série B.

In 2007, Santos, Flamengo, Fluminense (via the Copa do Brasil) and Cruzeiro made it into the Libertadores. Corinthians, Juventude, Paraná and América Natal crashed into the second division. Coritiba, Ipatinga, Portuguesa, and Vitória are the replacements.

Since its inception in 1971, the Brasileiro changed format every season until 2003 when the playoffs were finally ditched and the league was decided on accumulated points for the first time in its history. Five years on, the points system is gaining popularity. But a significant number still clamour for a return to the lottery of the playoffs for the simple fact that they believe the knockout phase is more exhilarating.

The Brasileiro is often regarded as the world’s fourth best after the English, Spanish and Italian leagues. But Brazilians like to assert that their national championship is more electrifying, surprising, and has more title contenders than any other competition.   

These claims are not made without good reason. Since 1971, there have been seventeen different winners (during the same period there have been just eight champions in Spain and nine in Italy). Since 1997, there have been six different winners (Vasco twice, Corinthians three times, Atlético Paranaense, Santos twice, Cruzeiro, and São Paulo twice). Corinthians were champions in 2005. Two years later, they were relegated. This season five teams are in with a real shout – seven if you stretch it a bit.

While the Brasileiro’s unpredictability makes it an intriguing competition, the underlying reasons for its erratic nature are a little disconcerting. Bad management, short contracts, insufficient long-term planning by the clubs, awful referees and a lack of firm leadership from the Brazilian Football Federation (the CBF) all contribute to the mayhem.  

However, there are signs that things are on the up. Some of the clubs are giving their coaches a real run out in the post. There have been improvements to the infrastructure and in the treatment of fans, the marketing of the teams is getting better, and gates are up (though Flamengo’s great run in 2007 distorts the figures somewhat).

São Paulo lead the way in how a club should be managed. As a result, they could become first team to win the league three years in a row. Muricy Ramalho’s side have dominated the competition for the past couple of seasons but this year there is no clear favourite for the title. In 2006 and 2007, there was never any real doubt that the Morumbi outfit would be lifting the Brasileiro come December. This season, Palmeiras, Flamengo and Fluminense have the potential to unseat São Paulo. And the efforts of Santos, Cruzeiro, and Internacional can’t be ruled out.

With the Brasileiro it’s always a good idea to expect the unexpected. Nearly every season throws up a ‘surprise’ team. Last year, it was sleeping giants Flamengo who tore up the league after several near misses with relegation. Paraná made it into the Libertadores for the first time in 2006. Goiás did the same the season before (and then almost got relegated last year).

To add to the appeal, one of the big guns is bound to be in trouble. Corinthians went down in 2007, Atlético Mineiro in 2005, Grêmio in 2004, Palmeiras and Botafogo in 2002. And for 2008, they is at least one possible candidate.

Though the competition is on the right track towards greater stability, two factors continue to disrupt the early stages. The first is the end of the Libertadores in July.

Brazil’s representatives in this year’s tournament have based their budgets around this South American contest. That means many of their big earners are only under contract until July. If a Brazilian club wins the competition, they will try to hang on to these players for the World Club Championship in December. But the end of the Libertadores coincides with opening of the European summer transfer window. This second factor can affect all Brazil’s clubs as the Europeans are moving ever quicker to snap up the latest Brazilian teenage sensation. At some point, the CBF will have to tackle these issues: and that means bringing Brazil’s football calendar in line with the rest of the major leagues around the world.

Despite these problems, there is one comforting constant: a production line of talent where the seemingly irreplaceable is replaced (though not necessarily straightaway). 2007 was a bumper year when it came to sales. Pato (US$20 million), Breno (US$18 million), Lucas (US$15 million), and Willian (US$19 million). Twelve months ago, you’d probably not heard of any of them. So, look out for these players and their price tags this season: Hernanes and Alex Silva (São Paulo), Guilherme and Kerlon (Cruzeiro), Marcinho and Renato Augusto (Flamengo), Diogo (Portuguesa), Kerrison, Pedro Ken and Marlos (Coritiba) and Thiago Silva and Thiago Neves (Fluminense).

And so on to the 2008 Campeonato Brasileiro. With a vast amount of players being bought and sold at the start of the contest and results in the local state championships a poor guide to performance later in the year, it is very tricky to predict who’s going to do what in the national league. So, after getting my excuses in early, here goes.

Front runners

If anyone has the edge this season, it’s got to be Palmeiras. The estádio Palestra Itália club has made some big investments. Diego Souza, Alex Mineiro, Lenny, Denílson, Henrique, and Kléber have all come in. Valdívia, Marcos, Diego Cavallieri, Pierre and Gustavo – the backbone of the 2007 squad – are still in place. But the most important arrival was Vanderlei Luxemburgo. The coach, who turns 56 on the opening day, is the only manager to have won five Brasileiros. Luxemburgo is easily the best in Brazil and with Palmeiras willing to put up the money; the manager may make it six Brasileiros within eight months.

Last Sunday, the club won the Campeonato Paulista for the first time in twelve years. The day after, Palmeiras announced four new signings: Jumar (Paraná Clube), Jefferson (São Caetano), Fabinho Capixaba and Sandro Silva (Mirassol). Admittedly, none of these are big names but they are good additions to an already solid squad.

Palmeiras are backed by Traffic who have made no bones about the fact that they will cash in on their investments when the price is right. There are already rumours flying around that the likes of Valdivia, Pierre and Kléber might be on their way and this would severely dent Palmeiras’ title aspirations. However, the partnership appears to be more equal than the one Corinthians used to have with MSI. And when (not if) Traffic pull the plug, the fall out should be less severe.

Palmeiras’ are a long way from being unbeatable. Their shock exit from the Copa do Brasil at the hands of Sport Recife proved that. The Palestra Itália boys are still vulnerable when they underrate the opposition, but the coach won’t tolerate much of that this season.

Current championships São Paulo are the only team to have officially won the Brasileiro five times (Flamengo dispute this). Muricy Ramalho has been in charge since January 2006 and it is impossible to argue with his record in the league. Ramalho is in many ways the polar opposite of Luxemburgo and could be lumped in with the likes of Felipão, Dunga, and Carlos Alberto Parreira who put out effective but deadly dull teams. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional defensive game but when you set up a team to play this way nearly every match there’s something wrong.

São Paulo won the league the last two years by sneaking the odd goal and sitting back. They got away with it because they had an indomitable back line. But the sale of Breno to Bayern Munich has changed all that and Ramalho needs to adapt tactically. Key players such as Adriano, Hernanes, Alex Silva, Richarlyson, and Miranda could all be on their way after the Libertadores. Recent signings Éder, Éder Luís, Jancarlos, Joílson, and Juninho are all ok but nothing to shout about.

São Paulo still deserve respect and should not be written off. But one thing is certain; the Morumbi club will need to boast their squad for the upcoming campaign and may even need a new man at the helm to freshen things up.

Rio’s Fluminense have bought well and have the potential to make a strong claim. Flu have just one title to their name and that came way back in 1984 under Carlos Alberto Parreira. Current coach, Renato Gaúcho, is proving to be more than competent and the former Brazil striker is not afraid to throw bodies forward. The team from the Laranjeiras already had Thiago Silva, who is one of the best centrebacks in Brazil, plus gifted midfielder, Thiago Neves, on their books. But new faces Darío Conca, Washington and Dodô have been added for Flu’s Libertadores campaign. Too bad for Fluminense that the free-scoring Leandro Amaral, lost his legal battle with Vasco and was forced to return to his old club. With Amaral in the line-up, Renato Gaucho’s team would have definitely been a real force.

Also in Rio de Janeiro, are Brazil’s most popular club, Flamengo. The most recent of their four Brasileiros (five if you are a Flamengo fan) came in 1992. Last season’s third place finish was Fla’s best in years and surprised just about everybody. When coach Joel Santana took over early in the Brasileiro in 2007, Flamengo were relegation candidates. Santana led them back into the Libertadores and brought some much-needed respect to the black and ruby shirt. Unfortunately for Flamengo, Santana received an offer ‘he couldn’t refuse’ and has recently left to manage South Africa. His replacement is Caio Júnior who took charge on 6th May. The coach is rated in Brazil but he is relatively inexperienced and his track record is a bit patchy. Caio Júnior is far more defensive than his predecessor and that may not go down too well with the Flamengo fans.

Flamengo have kept hold of the squad that did so well last year. Obina is fit again and might form a fruitful partnership with Diego Tardelli. Fla have a new weapon in their free-kick taking keeper, Bruno. They’ve also brought in the former Manchester United player, Kléberson, and old boy Jonatas, into the midfield plus ex Goiás centreback, Leonardo, to stiffen the defence. If Fla can find the consistency they did under Santana in 2007, the Rubro Negros might just be worth keeping an eye on.

Cruzeiro should have done much better than fifth place in 2007. After a very poor start, the Belo Horizonte side produced some exhilarating football but lost their bottle at a crucial stage in the campaign. Adílson Batista has replaced Dorival Junior and Cruzeiro have looked more solid. Batista’s men had a terrific run in the Libertadores until they were walloped 5×1 by lowly Real Potosi in Bolivia. The defeat suggested that while Cruzeiro have a half-decent first team, they may not have the squad or the necessary talent, to really compete for the Brasileiro. Cruzeiro’s other problem is the club directors who have a track record of selling their best players even if it means jeopardizing league success. As annoying as Cruzeiro’s lack of ambition is, in some ways there is logic to their policy. In financial terms, winning the league is neither here nor there (I’m still trying to get the exact figures). The important thing is getting into the Libertadores and Cruzeiro have managed this (at least for this year).

In comparison to the highs of 2006 when Internacional won the Libertadores and the World Club Championship and finished second in the Brasileiro, last season was a dismal failure. Inter became the first holders in the history of the Libertadores to get dumped out in the group stage. Finishing eleventh in the Brasileiro was also embarrassing. But what did the Porto Alegre club think was going to happen after they sold off all their prize assets? Many pundits are tipping Inter to be amongst the main challengers. But their squad has no real depth and if they lose any key personnel they will struggle to keep up. Abel Braga is in charge once again and any side with the likes of Magrão, Alex, and Iarley cannot be ignored. Inter’s key assets are Fernandão and Nilmar. If the pair can keep clear of injury (something they have not been able to do for the past two seasons), it could be a much better year for the Beira Rio outfit.  

Santos have been largely written off by the majority of football writers here in Brazil. The club took its time to adjust to the loss of Vanderlei Luxemburgo at the end of 2007. Emerson Leão’s return was not greeted with universal approval at the Vila Belmiro and early results appeared to prove the coach’s critics right. Leão though, slowly turned things around and Santos have improved. Much will depend on whether Santos can hang on to their chief goal scorer, Kléber Pereira. The striker’s contract is up at the end of June and they’ll be no shortage of clubs after his signature. Like Cruzeiro and Inter, Santos do not have the strength in depth, but good signings such as Lima from Juventus-SP are helping to address that.    


The obvious place to look for potential strugglers is amongst the four sides that came up from Série B. However, in recent years, the newly promoted teams have done pretty well. Only one new boy per season has gone straight back down since the league was converted to a points basis (América RN in 2007, Santa Cruz in 2006, Brasiliense in 2005, no one in 2004 but only Palmeiras and Botafogo came up that season, and in 2003 it was Fortaleza). 

Of the recently promoted sides, Coritiba and Portuguesa seem to be the best-equipped to cope. Vitória were in the first division at the start of 2004. By the end of 2005, they were in Série C. The Bahia team have made a quick return to the topflight and will be more than reluctant to relinquish their new status. Ipatinga become the 128th club to play in the first division. After a period of phenomenal success, the Belo Horizonte club are making their Série A debut a mere ten years after their foundation. Giba is one of the promising coaches in Brazil but he may be in for a rough ride at the estádio Ipatingão this season. After their shock relegation from the first division of the Campeonato Mineiro, Ipatinga have reinforced their squad considerably and may be a surprise. Other candidates that could find it hard going are Náutico and Goiás. I also have a sneaking feeling that giants Vasco could find themselves in the doldrums once again.

The Campeonato Brasileiro 2008 has all the potential to be the hardest fought and one of the most exciting for years. But the downsides refuse to go away. The Brasileiro is erratic, unpredictable, and frequently frustrating. The teams are in a constant state of flux, the set-ups are sometimes amateurish, and the club directors and coaches habitually juvenile. Facilities are often third-rate and most of the supporters are treated poorly and the referees are abysmal. But not many leagues are as open, few have as many plots twists, and hardly any can deliver an average of 2.67 goals per game.

Opening day’s fixtures 


São Paulo























Couto Pereira










João Havelange



















Entry filed under: Campeonato Brasileiro 2008, Championship guides. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Flamengo appoint Caio Júnior Libertadores: Flamengo fall to pieces

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Inferno Coral Belfast Branch  |  May 7, 2008 at 14:57

    I just wanted to congratulate you on a wonderfully in depth preview. I suggest you write to The Guardian online and demand Conrad Leach´s job immediately. I´ve been in Brazil for three years (Recife at the moment) and am cursed enough to support the not so glorious Santa Cruz and Atletico MG. I agree with most of what you said, but is Bruno really a free kick taker? I have a terrible feeling that despite great optimism that Fla or Flu or Palmeiras might do it, a few key departures or injuries (Neves, Marcinho or Valdivia for example) will see them fall away and the relentless tedium of Sao Paulo win out again. And I hate Cruzeiro, for obvious reasons. Oh, I have a blog too if you want to have a look, though its a little different to yours (www.yourlifeisanimpossibillity.blogspot.com). All the best.

  • 2. Romeu  |  May 7, 2008 at 15:26

    Oi Jon!

    parabéns pelo Blog. A narrativa está muito boa, e tenho certeza de que os acessos vão aumentar bastante com o tempo e divulgação. vale apenas uma reclamação: cadê as notícias sobre o futebol feminino?

  • 3. pitacodogringo  |  May 7, 2008 at 16:51

    Inferno Coral Belfast Branch

    thanks for the kind words. the guide was not something i cobbled together overnight so i’m glad someone liked it!

    i feel sorry for Conrad Black. i think he’s doing an ok job and doesn’t deserve all the stick he’s been getting. but now people know he’s not living here, he’s lost a bit of credibility and that’s clearly become a problem.

    i think Bruno has scored twice now: http://video.globo.com/Videos/Player/Esportes/0,,GIM819308-7824-GOLEIRO+DO+FLAMENGO+FALA+SOBRE+SEU+GOL+DE+FALTA+NA+LIBERTADORES,00.html

    yes, a few sales and injuries to other teams and the ball will be back in são paulo’s court and that’s not a pleasant prospect with our friend Muricy in charge! haha

    i tried to check out your site but it didn’t work. do you have to be signed up to blogspot to access it?

  • 4. pitacodogringo  |  May 7, 2008 at 17:02

    Fala Romeu!

    valeu! Eu espero que os acessos vão aumentar também!! Haha

    Na verdade, tava pensando sobre o futebol feminino hoje. Vamos combinar e fazer uma ‘entrevista’ sobre seu trabalho com futebol e com SAAD. O que vc acha?

  • 5. dylan  |  May 8, 2008 at 01:33

    This is a great overview, and I agree with pretty much all of your analysis. I’m corinthiano, so I’m going to be slogging through the Série B (any chance of an in-depth preview of that league? :-P), but I think the first division is going to be great this year. And it’ll be a lot less stressful for me to watch than the last two years.

    I’m happy to see Portuguesa back in the top flight, but I’m afraid they’re going to really struggle, after seeing them in the state league. Hopefully they’ll step up now that Diogo’s back.

  • 6. inferno coral belfast branch  |  May 8, 2008 at 06:44

    Hello again

    I think the problem with the site address is a rogue ´l´ in impossibility – try again with http://www.yourlifeisanimpossibility.blogspot.com. I´ll send you an email later – at the moment i´m still in shock after all last night´s excitement and Flamengo´s horror show….


  • 7. pitacodogringo  |  May 8, 2008 at 18:22

    too bad about your ‘timão’ but they’ll probably bounce straight back !
    sorry, but i’ve got no plans to do a guide for Série B (writing the Série A one was exhausting enough!! haha)

    as for Portuguesa, Edno, Sidnei and Washington aren’t bad signings so there’s hope yet.

  • 8. Martin  |  May 9, 2008 at 11:41

    I think the championships in Mexico and Colombia are along with Brazil probably the most open league titles as typically there aren’t any dominant teams. But in Brazil these past few years we have seen Sao Paulo, if they don’t win the league title they’re finishing in the top 2 or 3. I think once again they have to be considered one of the favorites although I agree with pitacodogringo that Palmeiras, with a talented roster and a coach who has had plenty of success in Vanderley Luxemburgo, should also be considered a real contender. I like what I’ve seen of Fluminense in the Copa Libertadores but I wonder about their depth to sustain a league challenge through December.

    I have a friend who is a Nautico fan and they surprised all observers by staying up last season but after losing their best player Alberto Acosta to Corinthians, I think they’ll require a miracle to stay up this year.

    Last season it was Breno of Sao Paulo and David of Palmeiras who came out of nowhere to become stars and then cashed in moving to Europe. The year before them it was Lucas Leiva of Gremio and Alexandre Pato of Internacional. Who’ll be this year’s emerging stars?

  • 9. Mineirinho  |  May 10, 2008 at 10:23

    Nice job. Glad to see such great coverage in English. This is much better than The Brazil Offside. Great job!

  • 10. pitacodogringo  |  May 10, 2008 at 12:46

    Mineirinho (Atlético or Cruzeiro??)
    glad you like the blog. tell your friends! ha
    Brazil Offside do cover some things that i don’t (and vice versa) and they write from a Brazilian perspective (or rather from a Palmeiras fan’s point of view haha), whereas yours truly is a Brit. So, together I think we provide balanced view. – I’m in a generous mood this morning! Maybe I’ll remove this later. haha

  • 11. frost  |  May 11, 2008 at 16:04

    Just stumbled across your site = WOW !!! Love it already.
    Continued success!

  • […] right now antonio lopes is the manager. if anyone is interested, here’s my Brasileiro preview: Pitacodogringo’s guide to the Campeonato Brasileiro, 2008 Pitaco do gringo’s Brazilian foo… Both previews are great help, thank you! Hope that you can update all this after June and add […]

  • 13. Alan  |  May 16, 2008 at 00:59

    Great Preview Pita – Very insightful for a gringo – well done…

    Surprised you don’t think Botafogo are one of the front runners (I think they are top 6 for sure) – I’m of course assuming you don’t think so, because you fail to mention them!

    Agree, Vitoria are the whipping boys this year, along with Goias I think!

    Nice job.

  • 14. pitacodogringo  |  May 16, 2008 at 16:09

    I’ll take that as a compliment haha

    I’d like to see Botafogo suceed in the league because i like what Cuca has done with them. but you are right, i don’t think they will be challengers this season and i don’t think they make the Libertadores either. The Brasileiro preview i’ve just posted says why.

    btw, the most frequent score between Cruzeiro and Botafogo in the league is 1×1 – thought you may be interested in this!


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The man who came up with: Messi carrying Argentina. Neymar carrying Brazil. British Airways carrying England. My name is Jon Cotterill. I am an English football commentator for TV Globo in São Paulo, Brazil. Currently we're broadcasting two live Campeonato Brasileiro or Campeonato Paulista games per week plus our magazine show, Footbrazil to 180 countries. + Eu trabalho como narrador na TV Globo em São Paulo, Brasil. Atualmente, nos transmitimos dois jogos ao vivo do Campeonato Brasileiro ou Campeonato Paulista por semana e nosso programa de futebol semanal, Footbrazil.

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© Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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